History of the Refuge of Mercy

The Sisters of el Refugio De Misericordia draw strength from the vision of their founders

 Hna Carmen con bebes 2 1261Hna Carmen con bebes 1950s

Sr. Gabriela worked in the nursery at the Refuge for over 40 years. These pictures were taken around 1980.



In the 1920’s when to be a single mother meant total shame as well as abandonment by family and society. Adela Edwards, a women's rights heroine in Chile, arose to become an ardent defender of these vulnerable mothers. Adela knew that these adolescent mothers were particularly at risk for abuse and easy prey for those who would use them in the street trade. She invited them into her home.  Her husband however complained that the crying babies kept him awake at night. He suggested that Adela invite a group of Catholic Sisters from Spain to help them. Adela invited the Sisters of the Adoration to Chile.  They came, but their mission was to found schools for girls so that they did not get pregnant.  Girls who were already pregnant were not within their mission. 


Adela went to the Bishop of Santiago with her tale.  The Bishop replied, “Adela, why don’t you found a new congregation of Sisters?” Adela, who had a husband and five children to look after, knew this was impossible.


In utter desperation, not knowing how to help the abandoned adolescents, but unwilling to give up, Adela sought the help of her spiritual guide, Father Nicanor Avertano. He introduced her to another young woman, Berta De La Fuente. Birtha had just left her Congregation because of health and was very interested in the mission of helping adolescent mothers.  Together, Adela and Berta came up with a totally innovative solution for helping the these young mothers. The society of their day saw pregnant adolescents as “fallen women” who were to be shunned.  Adela and Berta saw the young women as victims of sexual abuse and violence. They saw them as young mothers who, given even brief refuge and a chance for basic education, could overcome the trauma they had suffered and gain the skills they needed to re-enter society with dignity.


Berta, who was now Mother Veronica, and Adela Edwards started the Congregation de Amor Misericordioso de Jesús y Maria. (The Congregation of the Most Merciful Love of Jesus and Mary). With the authorization and blessing of the Archbishop of Santiago, the Congregation began their lifelong service to young single mothers that continues to this day.


In 1928 they opened a refuge for young mothers, the “Refugio de Misericordia” (Refuge of Mercy) and started receiving adolescent girls who were pregnant with their first child. The building also housed a small clinic to treat and care for all mothers who had contracted social diseases.



                                       Refuge entrance   

 Main Entrance to Refuge



The work of the Refuge of Mercy continues, changing through the years along with the times and the social reality of Chile. The Sisters continue to welcome pregnant teenage mothers at social risk because of rape, incest, abuse, poverty, and abandonment. Their goal is to offer the young mothers the support they need to overcome trauma, accept the responsibilities of a parent, and embrace life with their child.